Monday, October 29, 2007

The Absolute Worst Way To Follow A Game

My wife, the saint, and I have been together for over ten years and married for just over five. Before we had kids we had a great old time, going out, partying, doing the eeh eeh - eeh eeh whenever we got the chance.
Then we had my daughter. Now, your first kid is a trip. Later when you have a second you wonder why you thought the first was so difficult. You had her outnumbered but its your first and when you get home from the hospital and realize there's no manual then you're in a world of shit because you realize that you have to keep her alive and you haven't the foggiest.
So then we had our son and the baby part was a piece of cake because you know what you're doing now but the problem is that the teams are now even and like the Finns when the Soviets invaded in '39, it may seem like you're winning and people everywhere admire your pluck but the reality is you're just delaying the inevitable and pretty soon there are statues of Stalin in every square in Helsinki. Same deal once you have two kids. They are pretty well always winning. Its like watching those poor Canadian Olympic hockey teams in the 70s and 80s playing the Soviets again. You knew they were going to lose everytime. Just too much firepower.
So your time is precious and Dog bless my wife, the saint, because when the Oilers are on the TV she lets me have at it, no complaints. Living amongst those Whose Passion Unites Them All, however, means that Oiler games are usually few and far between.
So many nights are spent like last night, hanging out, knowing the Oilers are on, but not really in a position to do anything about it. Sure I could tune them in over the Interweb radio but all of those married fellows out there know that when you have kids and you're actually committed to the cause (ie/ you do your full share) that its all about tradeoffs. I'm going to Edmonton in just over three weeks, leaving Jenn with the kids but I will return the favour in the spring when she takes off for a weekend soemwhere. In the same vein watching the Oilers whenever they are on means that when Desperate Housewives is on I'm going to grin and bear it (aw, I like that show, who am I kidding) - sneaking into the basement with the laptop isn't going to do the trick.
So what does one do? Well, I have the laptop at arm's length with the Live Game Update from the Oilers' website running. If you've never taken in a game that way let me just say that you should try it because other then the shots at or on the net, the stoppages in play and, um, well, that's all really, you haven't the foggiest idea as to what is going on out there. For all I know the lads could be playing canasta by the pool with the Ducks.
So last night I see 2-1 Ducks and then STAIOS - PENALTY HIGH STICKING with under three minutes left and I figure that's all she wrote.
And then nothing. Just the time click ticking until:
SANDERSON, EDM, SHOT 45' - now the clock stops but because its Sanderson and its 60' and its SH I figure he's lofted a long one in at Giguere. And then:
COGLIANO, EDM, SHOT 7' - I kid you not. And then ...
You really can't beat it for excitement. Really.
How about those Oilers?!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Ten Games In and What Did We Get?

Well, I'm a glass half full type of guy, so what can I say - I can spin this positive with the best of them.

Honestly if you had told me this team would be four and six at this point I would have expected that record and that is with a completely healthy team. Its a rebuild. Its going to be bumpy.

But without Moreau or Pisani at all and with Souray only playing six games and Pitkanen out for the last two? And with Jarret Stoll doing his finest JFJ impression. And Pouliot too. And a two fer on the PP, period.

Yeah I'll take 4 and 6.
Besides the injuries and the PP there have been some other negatives. Even with Souray and Pitkanen in the lineup the D has lacked, especially in their coverage in front of the net. They are also error prone. But a lot of these guys are kids and its to be expected - growing pains. The PK has not been its usual high quality but when you take Smyth, Smith, Pisani and Moreau out of the mix its to be expected.
Essentially they have looked a lot like a young team that is not very good - they get lots of chances, carry the play, look terrific and all but then the D blows a coverage or makes a turnover and the puck ends up in the net. No goals on the PP and a poor PK and you get 4 and 6.
Throw in a few strange decisions by MacT who seems to be trying to win some games (kids get 3 minutes of icetime) but throwing others away (or trying to) in the name of development - sitting Tarnstrom in place of Grebeshkov Thursday night for example or playing Stortini in place of JFJ or Pouliot - and its made for some strange days indeed.
Now on the other hand, Roloson has been mostly very good. The D have moved the puck as advertised and the transition game is much improved. Staios and Tarnstrom have been as solid as can be and lo and behold Matt Greene is staying out of the box and making progress. The story on the D is Tom Gilbert who has looked like a player since day one. He's playing some tough minutes here and there and he has showed well. Just a smart hockey player who gets it.
Up front, Reasoner and Sanderson have teamed with another rookie, Brodziak, to form a decent line which at least keeps the other team honest. Not a lot of production but when they are on the ice the puck is generally in the opposition's end. Jacques has looked to maybe finally be getting it - taking a whack at Finger after his shot on Gagner garnered him praise from MacT.
Not much to be said about Gagner and Cogliano - soft minutes, tough minutes, who cares? That's four rookies who are playing regular shifts and doing their part and when is the last time an Oiler team could boast that?
Hemsky has really played at a high level, imo, and he is truly a guy who has been looking for bounces. I find that he has been shooting much more and that in the games I have seen he has usually been one of the top players on the ice.
Horcoff has been Horcoff - underappreciated but he's a player. He's another guy who wasn't getting a lot of bounces but after a four point night on Thursday he's at a PPG for the season. If Horc was to pop 80 plus points while playing the game he plays maybe we could end the complaining about him once and for all.
As for Penner, well its still wait and see with him. He's out of shape and adjusting but so far it has been consistency with him. Saw a nice backcheck against the Avs that shows me he's no Lupul and there have been a few games where he has shown what Lowe saw in him. Fingers crossed but I believe he will cover the bet. Maybe against soft minutes but I'll take it.
Other then the rookies the brightest spot for me and a guy who has been flying under the radar is Torres. With Raffi its all about consistency so maybe the next ten will be as bad as the first ten were good but he has become a force game in and game out. Defensively he is right there every time. He is playing with a physical edge nearly every night. His playmaking has improved and the play rarely dies with him anymore. I would say that it looks like he may have figured it out - even when he was on fire two seasons ago he never looked as good as he has now.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

White's Folly - Things Could be Worse

A truism - things can always get worse. This applies to your life and mine. Things often could get better as well but things could turn ugly in a moment.
If Ryan Smyth represents the archetypical Canadian hockey player, the gritty heart and soul guy who spends his spare time visiting kids with cancer then Ian White wears the black hat as the archetype of what we can dislike about hockey players - the arrogant punk who drove drunk and then with a suspended license and sneered about it. So good on him for being stupid enough to talk about how the Leafs should easily handle the awful Thrashers. Beautiful.
Interesting panel discussion on TSN last night as to who was in worse shape, the Oilers or the Leafs, and of course the consensus choice was the Leafs. We can complain a lot about the Oilers for good reason. It did not have to be a complete teardown rebuild and of course if that is the plan now then you probably want to hold onto those first round picks and try not to sign aging injury prone one trick ponies to huge contracts.
I have seen half the Oilers' games now (and you know what I have not seen them win - damn maybe I'm the problem!) and every game is the same. Team plays hard. Teams has plenty of beauty scoring chances but fails to score. Team fails to score on PP. Defensive mistake leads to goal by the opposition. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Every single game a moral victory but you know what (whispering) they're not a very good team. How they have been losing is how not very good teams lose.
The best part of this season has been watching Cogliano and Gagner put up nearly a PPG, Brodziak be an effective player and Tom Gilbert look like a guy who may be a bona fide NHL defenceman who can handle some tough minutes. Add in Roy looking solid and Pouliot too and Jacques looking like he may be getting there (by going after Singer last night he impressed MacT and about time an Oiler made such a point) and like Lowetide you may sing the praises of amateur scouting.
And surely Stoll will snap out of it and I haven't given up on Penner and while Hemsky reminds me more and more of Maxim A. (not good) from Buffalo he has to get on that scoresheet in a big way soon, right. And by the way Torres looks terrific. I mean he really looks like he has finally figured it out. Fuck he has been good.
But they have plenty of holes and its going to be at least 45 losses but would you prefer to be the Leafs whose D is full of overpriced veterans who can't be moved (most GA in the league despite both goaltenders playing quite well), where Sundin and Blake have long ago said goodbye to 30 years of age and whose best player (and he has been terrific), Antropov, is almost guaranteed to get injured, because that is what he does. The Leafs have 12 million more in salary commitment for next season then the Oilers already.
Of course according to many Leafs' fans this is the media's fault for not looking at the positive of being 3-4-3 after ten games, eight of which were at home, many which they coughed up badly in the third period.
You see, this is the thing I don't get about Leaf fans. I bitch and complain about the Oilers, sure, but I'll be just a fan. I watched the game last night and enjoyed it. I'm flying to Edmonton in a month to see a game. So I understand the whole mentality of just enjoying your team because that is what you do as a fan. That's great.
But I will also call Lowe on the carpet for the moves he has made though - why? - because I want the Oilers to win the Cup. Half truths and poor moves don't get them any closer. Whatever it takes. I don't have a hate on for Lowe - if they win the Cup in five years then I will gladly eat a serving of crow. Gladly.
Since the Leafs last won the Cup there have been fifteen teams that have won. Heck the Oilers have won five themselves. And since 1967 another eight teams have not won the Cup but at least they have made it to the final.
So for forty years, most of which included the club having a huge financial advantage over nearly every other team in the league, this team has not even made the finals.
And yet Leaf fans call out anyone who points out the Leafs' failing as being overly negative.
I just wonder - I know that the Passion Unites Us All - but when do you start to get a wee bit upset about your beloved Buds never winning?
Oh yes, it could be much worse indeed.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Return

Read Andy Grabia's post for a wonderful take on Smytty.
Smytty was the reason I became an Oiler's fan. When I go to Edmonton next month I may have to pick myself up a jersey - apparently they are still quite popular which befits a player of his mystique.
I never thought they would let him go but it became apparent that that is where the organization was heading last winter. What sunk him? I believe Lowe's comments about elite players reveal his motivations - he played with some of the greatest offensive players of alltime, guys who did it all in the playoffs. In the '06 run Smyth finished fifth on his club in scoring - behind Pronger, Horcoff, Hemsky and Pisani. If he had scored those two goals Pisani scored against Detroit, the one he scored to win G5 and the one in G7 then Smyth would still be an Oiler today. Guaranteed. Instead Lowe looked at those playoffs and made his decision.
That's my theory.
Its a shame really because Lowe himself has admitted in public that he erred in the Smyth case. He should have signed him for what he was asking.
But he did not and then compounded the mistake by throwing almost the same amount of money at a defenceman coming off a career year, a guy coming off his first year when he was truly healthy, a guy who has pretty well won nothing, a guy who has a big shot ... nothing else.
You may argue, if you will, the merits of Ryan Smyth but to spend that money on Souray is insulting. Smyth may not be in the class of Sakic or Pronger but he's good enough to play in three best on best tournaments for the deepest national program in the world. Souray is a poor man's Bryan McCabe.
Word is that there will be a video tribute to Ryan Smyth tonight. I hope the crowd cheers and cheers and cheers some more.
And I hope he scores a few tonight. I really do.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Tough Minutes

In June of 2006 if the Canes sent Eric Staal over the boards the Oilers could counter with Shawn Horcoff, Ryan Smyth, Radek Dvorak, Chris Pronger and Jason Smith. If Rod Brindamour followed then out came Raffi Torres, Mike Peca, Fernando Pisani, Jaro Spacek and Steve Staios. And we haven't mentioned Ethan Moreau.
Tonight when Jarome Iginla hits the ice MacT most likely will have Staios and Joni Pitkanen as well as Horcoff, Torres and, um, maybe Ales Hemsky? When Huselius follows he will see maybe Marty Reasoner, Kyle Brodziak, Geoff Sanderson, Dick Tarnstrom and Matt Greene.
Feeling confident?
Ok. Any questions as to why this team is going to have a tough time winning games this season?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Hey Lowe, Get Those Kids Out Of My Jello Tree!

One of my biggest beefs with the Oilers over the past few seasons is their failure to have rookies make any sort of impact whatsoever. There are many reasons for this. MacT, like most coaches who like to win games, prefers veterans to greenhorns. In the same vein he likes to bring them along slowly. Play without the puck is important to MacT - not a surprise for the reason just mentioned as well as the fact that Oiler teams of recent vintage are usually in the thick of trying to make the playoffs. Breaking in some kid who may score 45 points but who ends up a minus twenty isn't going to win you many games. And finally there haven't been a lot of rookies worthy of the icetime. So while the Oilers have drafted well this decade (and just prior) most of the rookies have started their careers slowly and built to something - Horcoff, Stoll, Hemsky, Pisani, hopefully Pouliot will someday be included in this list.
Then you look at San Jose - Bernier, Michalek, Vlasic, Clowe, Pavelski - the list goes on and on. San Jose's drafting is to be envied. Look around the league and you see Stastny, Zajac and so on. In Edmonton not much doing.
Until now. Gagner is likely here to stay I would say and Cogliano has been terrific. Gilbert has been decent if not a big impact guy and Brodziak had a nice start too. With Trukhno and Chorney on the horizon and a bunch of other guys who may spit out a player or two - Dubnyk? O'Marra? Schremp or Nilsson? Plante? Nash? it looks like the worm may finally have turned.
It may be against soft opposition. That's fine with me. If Cogliano scores forty points or Gagner does the same it may be time to say that things have changed for the better when it comes to player procurement. I remember when the Oilers picked Cogliano Bob MacKenzie exclaimed that they had picked a gem. Looks like he may have been right.
Lets hope so.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Same Old Same Old

After last night's loss, Lowetide posted the following, a quick synopsis of the Oilers thus far. I have seen two games this season now, Wednesday's loss to Minnesota and tonight's game, looking like a second straight loss to the Canucks.
Its a tough schedule to start the season and I think four points after tonight would have been where many would have thought this team would be at. Hell, maybe even less. Maybe Philly the only soft touch you'd think and they handled the Flames and the Canucks. But of course when you pick up two wins right off the hop then its tougher to take four straight losses.
Tonight, even more so then Wednesday, I would say the Oilers were the better team in the first period. But an error on the back end and its into intermission down one. Then early in the second they are the better team once again. A couple of PPs and a chance to bring it to even and nothing doing. The Canucks score again and then again and that's likely all she wrote.
A few things to note. Torres has had a solid game - working, doing his job, being in the right place - and nothing to show for it. That could be said about a lot of Oilers up front. And you have some that aren't even at that point.
Stoll is nowhere near it. Had dinner with friends tonight who are friends with an ex NHLer whose career was ended by concussions. Brutal stuff and I'd be surprised if Stoll looks anywhere like his old self for quite a while yet.
So with Pisani and Moreau out and Stoll out of it, Penner out of shape (although he has had flashes tonight) and MacT trying to find someone, anyone who can play with Hemsky, there seems to be a lot of sound and fury up front at ES - lots of pressure and they look good at times - but no results.
They look like a team out of sync - lots of offsides, lots of bad breaks (which generally means they are getting outworked or outplayed), lots of good work undone quickly by a single poor decision.
They look like a mediocre team.
Add to that a PP that fails to score and how long has this refrain been going on now? A goal or two on the PP in G4 or G7 of the SCF or on Wednesday or tonight or on last Monday and maybe the Oilers win one of those games. Still nothing.
And one thing that LT said in that post and that many have said since the summer - the D. A lot of guys playing one spot up. A lot of 3s and 4s and 5s.
A tough week and likely a tough season to come. This team is going to be in a lot of games, show promise and fall short.
Gagner had looked fine and Cogliano too. Gilbert has been solid. Hell, even Schremp showed flashes on one shift. Have to hang our hat on that for a while, I'm afraid.

Fluid - Schremp and Stortini Up

The Oilers haven't fucked around this year - spots are open and they are giving time to whoever earns it. Although I'm not real sure why Pouliot was a scratch tonight after a good game the other night. Anyways there has been talk here in Hogtown how the Leafs have changed very little from last year's club - except Toskela and Blake its the same club. They are a veteran club but when even your PB guys are the same as last year and last year you didn't make the playoffs, wha?
Anyhow, third loss in a row tonight for the Oilers and they sent down Nilsson who hasn't produced and Jacques who apparently seems to be getting it a little bit but not enough to save him from being sent down. Schremp and Stortini in and I guess they will play tomorrow night? Not sure what is up with Pouliot.
I think we had better get used to this shuttle. MacT said as much in training camp.
Schremp has five points in four games this season. Good on him for not sulking when he got sent down. Lets see what he can do.
And Trukhno got his second goal in three games as well. How long before he gets the call.
Never a dull moment.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I Ain't No Movie Star But I Can Get Behind Anything

Caught my first glimpse of the Oilers last night. It was pretty well what I expected - a loss to the Wild. The Oilers always lose to the Wild.
The first two minutes the ice was tilted and Souray's flaws were there for everyone to see - slow and unable to execute a simple breakout without stumbling about. A Wild penalty changed the momentum and although the Oilers came out of the first down one, I would say the period was even, maybe even in favour of the Oilers outside of that first Wild flurry.
When the Wild scored on a broken play in the second it was game over though. They just choked the life of the Oilers who were too small, too impatient, too inexperienced - take your pick - to beat Wild on Jack Lemaire. My eyes glazed over and my mind wandered over the last half of the game. Jesus!
Anyhow, impressions:
Four games in, I'll take two and two. I figured this road trip was an 0fer from the start and also thought they'd lose against San Jose. Considering Philly edged out Calgary and thumped Vancouver it looks like those two points may have been a nice bonus too.
I think this team is better then I thought it would be. Its no great shakes but I think they will beat the teams that they are supposed to beat and surprise a few that they shouldn't. I would say that they are faster and more skilled but also far less physical then past Oilers' squads.
Hemsky was excellent, especially in the first - easily the most dangerous player for the Oilers. Looking to shoot more. Playing with a lot of confidence.
Penner has a couple of nice plays where he used his size to shield the puck and then moved it back to the point. He also seems to be able to drift to that seam in the slot pretty well - he got a couple of decent shots off that way. Overall I found him slow and underwhelming though. He can't keep up with his linemates for one.
The Reasoner line was solid - the puck tended to be in the Wild end when they were out there. Marty looks rejuvenated. Brodziak just looks solid - Pisani like lets say.
The play still dies with Jacques a lot but he showed more then he has. Stoll still doesn't seem like he's there yet. Pouliot to me had a terrific game. He made things happen.
Torres and Cogliano were a nice pairing out there although offensively the results don't match what Torres is doing yet. Nilsson came as advertised. Small, defensively not so strong. Soft, soft hands though. Serious skill there. He can move that puck. No results though at all.
Souray, um, didn't look so good. Made a great play on a two on one. Other then that, well, he can't skate and he can't handle the puck. Apparently he can shoot it though - TSN had their radar gun and they talked about his shot every two minutes.
Staios was solid.
Pitkanen can move that puck and he can skate. He also lost his man on the disallowed goal.
Tarnstrom did fine but I'd be happier if he was on the third pair. Still, he's a better option on the second pair then, say, Smid.
I can say that Greene was fine.
And, as you might tell by the pic above, I was impressed with Gilbert. A few times he guessed, got beat but used his speed and size to get back into position. In the third he made a terrific big league play on Gaborik, who got the puck in the high slot and had space to move - Gilbert closed the gap immediately and used his size to eliminate Gaborik cleanly.
So, overall impression - I like this club. They are going to lose a lot of games this year, sure, but there is a lot to build on. Its early but Cogliano, Brodziak, Gilbert, Pouliot and yes, even Nilsson, look like they may be able to do some things. Penner needs to get up to speed and the Souray signing looks to me like I first thought - bust. What needs to happen as well is that Stoll and Torres need to produce. As in put the puck in the net.
As for the PP - Jesus its awful. Souray made the point after the second that they need to move the puck around down low. No kidding! Move your feet, get going and make things happen. Saw Carolina play two nights ago - now they play five forwards, mind you - but wow! (As an aside Carolina as allowed one ES goal all season - isn't that something?) Move the puck, move around, break down the box and get your chances.
I hope things get better on the PP because a goal last night would have made a difference. Of course we heard that back in June of '06 as well so don't hold your breath.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wild On Jack Lemaire - Live Bloggin

Oh dear, Radek Dvorak had a wide open net, all the time in the world and missed. Good old Dvo. Sorry sacamano.
Alright here we go. Feverforfalmes is predicting 3-0 for Wild on Jack Lemaire and yeesh he may be right. The Oilers always lose to the Gaboriks or so it seems and who the hell is Lemaire going to pick on tonight ? Vic figures he runs Gaborik out on Horcoff and then Rolston will beat up whoever else.
Duthie says we have two possible contenders playing tonight. Then he says that may be a stretch.
No shit.
Falmes are already down one by the way.
The introduction is making me horny. The youthful Oilers.
Gagner is a scratch, as expected. MacKenzie thinks Boogaard is a factor in this. Jacques is in. Milbury likes the Oilers but figures lots of growing pains. Pierre is overboard. He loves the Oilers - he's still an idiot though.
First Period
Rink tilts, its ugly, and then a PP. Tarnstrom made a nice play on Gaborik. Penner shields the puck twice - he's gigantic. Moves it smartly in each case. Quick shot by Hemsky. Second unit is the kids and Torres. Not much happens but Nilsson has soft hands, holy shit.
Cuthbert says Souray has the stiffest shaft in the league. Heh. That's right, I am 13.
Reasoner's line looks great. Greene makes a nice play on Gaborik. Horcoff's line has a great shift. Hemsky is flying. Staios handles Gaborik nicely. Then Pitkanen separates Gaborik from the puck nicely but then he gets it behind the net - everyone gets hypnotized and he sneaks it out to Burns (?) who fires it home. Jacques' man. Will we see him again? Ever?
Cuthbert comments on the more mobile D of the Oilers - Gilbert - check - Tarnstrom - right - Pitkanen - yep - Souray - HUH?
Another great shift by Hemsky. And a good shift for the Torres/Cogliano tandem once Pouliot gets out there. Pouliot looks terrific. Earlier on he set up JFJ nicely as well.
End of the period. Different team and I like it - ton more skill. Way faster. Cogliano can fly, Nilsson is quick, even Brodziak got the D on their heels. I like the look of Brodziak. Right place at the right time.
Hemsky looks to me like he has found a different level. Reasoner looks like a different player. Penner is a step behind but I like the way he uses his size. Stoll also looks like he is out of whack - still trying to find his game.
Souray is unbelievably slow. Jeez. Anyways, tough couple of minutes to start the game but after that they held their own, wouldn't say Minnesota had a huge edge after that. Oilers' look fast up front - they are catching the Wild flatfooted at times. Anyone who saw the Canes blow out the Leafs last night knows that speed is a good thing. This game is a track meet. 34 fast guys. Penner. And Souray. He is as mobile as my lawn.
Second period
Jacques makes a couple of nice plays and then one not so much. Playing with Stoll and Pouliot helps I think. Pouliot is looking fine. Gilbert is solid too.
Another good shift for the Cogliano line. Torres and he play well together. Cogliano does not look like a rookie. Seriously. Wheels will do that for you.
Penner doesn't seem to fit with Horcoff and Hemsky.
Gaborik has the Oilers back pedalling for an entire shift. Jesus.
Oilers PP. O for the season so far. They move the puck nicely but nothing doing.
And the Wild score.
Another play by Pouliot that demonstrates the guy's skill - gets it behind him in an awkward position and kicks it up to his stick without slowing down.
The Reasoner line is just solid. Good forecheck. They don't fuck around.
Nilsson leaves Skoula - where the hell is he. There's a shot. Rolston's line cycles but Pitkanen and Staios play it well. Clear to Raffi and its out.
Gilbert takes a chance, gets beat but recovers nicely.
Another PP - how about something here?
Nope. Very little. Souray gets beat and Stoll makes a nice play to bother Rolston to save a chance. Jeez very little on the PP - where's Craig Simpson when you need him? Little hook by Sanderson and Wild to the PP.
Solid work on the PK - not much doing - end of the period.
Well, less happening there - the Wild choke the life out of you and the Oilers don't look experienced enough to figure it out. Not a lot of room out there and when you are 0 for the season on the PP you're going to have problems winning games. The kids are as advertised so far and Raffi fits in well with Cogliano. I'd really like to see Pouliot on that line. Penner looks damn slow. The best thing I can say about Greene - I haven't noticed him really - he has just been solid. Souray says they should move the puck around down low on the PP, mix it up a bit - no shit.
Islanders win again. More Nolan magic? Milbury - I like to play my young goalies a ton - before you trade them, right? Heh. Falmes losing again.
Hand it to Souray, nice play on the two on one.
Penner gets replaced by Sanderson. He moves to Stoll and Pouliot's line.
Gilbert takes his man nicely.
Some chances but nothing too dangerous. Pouliot has the best of them.
The Wild always get the bounces but its because they are always in position, always moving their feet, always active.
Pitkanen misses his assignment. Reviewed. Looks like a goal to me. But its not.
Meh, Healy bugs me too.
Hah - wife came home and took the laptop.
Gaborik in the slot and Gilbert closes fast - nice play.
Flurry of activity at the end but nothing doing. 0 fer on the PP.
Didn't expect a win tonight - hoping but no luck.
Final thoughts tomorrow - out of gas.

Good Times

Watching the ticker last night and a smile came to my face at the list of unfolding events.
The Yankees out in the first round again thanks to a lack of pitching (who knew pitching won ball games?) and a lack of hitting with men in scoring position. As usual that parade was led by A-Rod, who I despise. Can't say why. Just do. Good on him.
The Leafs get crushed 7 to 1 and it would have been much worse if Toskala had not have been so good in the first twoo periods. Seriously. Plus the most overpaid player in the league, cap millstone Bryan "mistakes are a part of hockey" McCabe, got burned oh so badly on the fourth goal and was also checked by an inanimate object (his net).
Lying cheater Marion Jones is broke, stripped of her medals and in disgrace.
An arbitrator ruled that sadistic thug Michael Vick owes 20 million dollars of his bonus money to the Falcons.
Its beautiful.
And tonight I will be catching the Oilers for the first time this year. They are playing the Wild and it is in Minnesota so it could get ugly. And some wags might say that in this case EIG and Lowe will get what they deserve. :)
Me, I'm hoping for a win. May try the live blogging thing. Have a great day!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Early Impressions - Nice Start For The Kids

Two games in and two wins and all is well in Oilerville. Hell, why not? Two wins is better then no wins and while we all know that its a long season getting two points from the Sharks and then outplaying the Flyers for another two is far better then a kick in the head.
Unless of course you are a Cubs fan, in which case getting kicked in the head is what its all about.
Going on the road and we'll see what happens when MacT doesn't have the last change.
So, ridiculous commentary from a guy who has seen TSN highlights and nothing else.
The first big question facing Lowe - what to do if in nine games Gagner has six or seven points? By all accounts the kid has played well. He's getting ten minutes a game at ES and has a couple of assists. He's helping the team right now. When Moreau comes back I presume the first man out will be Pouliot and Gagner and Cogliano will play with Sanderson or the captain. So, is this team a better one with Gagner in the lineup? And is the role he has now better for him then going back to London and ripping it up?
Only two games (have to keep telling ourselves that, right?) but there's Gagner and Cogliano, who also has a pair of assists and has played 15 and 12 and a half minutes in the two games. There's Gilbert, who has been fine. And there's Brodziak, a goal and two assists and on the ice protecting the lead last night. Nilsson has nothing to show for a couple of fine games but no complaints about any of the kids thus far.
Two years ago Geoff Sanderson scored twenty five goals. He had a rotten year last season but was struggling with a torn groin among other things. So far he has looked like more then a throw in so here is a ridiculously premature question. If he puts together a decent season do you sign him?
Looks like Marty Reasoner is back.
Maybe Jacques is just a top notch AHL player? Good on him for not sulking as he had the Gordie Howe hat trick in his first game back in the minors. And thank goodness the Oilers sent him down rather then have him sit in the PB for six weeks. Anyhow, he only had four minutes plus on Thursday (compared to Pouliot who played over ten last night); we're talking Winchester like numbers. Its going to be an injury (likely two if Sanderson sticks around and plays well) before he draws in and picks up big minutes with the Oilers. The LW picture for the Oilers - Penner/Torres/Moreau/Sanderson/Thoresen/Trukhno - I think JFJ is going to be the odd man out when all is said and done.
Interesting to note the way the Oilers have rolled the D the first two games. Last night Staios and Pitkanen faced Briere's line while Souray and Greene took on Carter, Lupul and Hartnell. Thursday Greene and Souray faced the Thornton line while they ran Staios and Pitkanen out against Michalek and various others. Don't know if its a question of figuring that Staios and Pitkanen couldn't handle the cycle of the Thornton line, if they just wanted to see if Greene and Souray could handle that assignment or if they are still trying to figure it all out.
Big challenge tomorrow in Detroit.
One last thing, nice moment last night with Smith. Good on the organization for putting together a tribute and great ovation from the fans. Hope to see the same for Smyth when he returns. Both guys left it all on the ice for the club for a long time.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Critical Thought

I like Kevin Lowe. I liked him as a player. I give him credit for putting together a competitive team in the years before the lockout. I give him lots of credit for the run in 2005/2006.
Since June 19th of 2006 he has been on a monumental losing streak. And this morning it looks like he is going to get a contract extension.
Not sure how that works. The spin machine has been working overtime lately. The kids (and yes I agree they are lovely) are being called the Boys on the School Bus because, you know, its going to be the 80s all over again. Based on the preseason and one game. The return for Pronger now includes Cogliano, Gilbert, Hemsky, a sub 6 % unemployment rate, Jennifer Heil and the existence of bacon. Ryan Smyth, like all Oilers shipped out of town, was a heartless mercenary. And a lousy player. And so on.
So let's review the past eighteen months.
Lowe trades Pronger for Lupul, Smid and three picks. Lupul barely lasted a year. Smid is in the minors. Saying that Pitkanen was actually part of that trade now because Lupul was part of a trade for him is a mug's game. In any case you can go back for years and point to who was traded for who, like a type of family tree. Comrie begat Woyitka and Hamrlik begat Brewer and they begat Pronger and so on and so on until one can say that the original guy was a third round pick and a third round pick for so and so is a great deal, who wouldn't make that deal? The fact is that while we can all agree that Lowe may have asked for Bouwmeester and Horton, they likely weren't on the table. We don't know who was but when you are trading one of the best defenceman in the league then you had better make sure that the return is a sure thing. Having said that, the Pronger deal is a terrible trade.
The botched Smyth negotiation. If you want to see why Smyth was not considered an elite player by Lowe look at the scoring statistics for the playoffs in '06. Smyth was behind Pronger, Horcoff, Hemsky and Pisani, a couple of points up on Spacek and Samsonov. When they lost G7 the writing was on the wall for Smyth. Lowe played with enough guys who put up the big playoff numbers that I think he looked at Smyth and the results of that run and said "Not for me." Except that five months after moving Smyth (good return for twenty games of Smyth, btw) he was publically bemoaning his mistake in not signing him. Um, OK. Oops. Funny how all of those Lowe supporters and Smyth bashers can't put those two facts together. Smyth is a jerk and it was a good thing Lowe didn't give him that money but now Lowe says he should have given him the contract. Right. And how does Lowe come out of that statement looking good?
The reasons for not signing Smyth - not an elite player, older guy - were thrown out the window when Lowe threw all of that money at an over 30 player with a history of serious injuries and one career season, a season in which he also posted terrible defensive numbers while playing against second tier opposition.
Add to that last season's disaster when everyone knew from July on that this team needed at least one veteran Dman, maybe two, to be a playoff team. Instead the team was left to founder as Laddy Smid was sold as a top four Dman. An entire year was wasted.
I like Kevin Lowe. I think he has drafted well. Not great but pretty well. I think his track record before the recent fiascos is decent. I also believe that giving him a contract extension makes no sense. Riversq posted over at IOF the other day that the idea of waiting to see how this year plays out before deciding on Lowe drives him crazy. Apparently EIG decided not even to wait on that. Souray could go minus forty. Penner could score five goals. The kids who have everyone excited right now could all be buried in the minors by November. Doesn't matter. Based on '06, I guess, Lowe has gotten his reward.
Hey I'm a positive guy. I like the kids and I have high hopes for this year and the years to come. But I also want the Oilers to win. I wanted them to make the playoffs last year and their GM put them into a position to fail, not succeed. That does not cut it. I want them to win three years from now, five years from now, seven years from now. I want them to be the Detroit Red Wings. Trading one of the best players in the league for a poor return does not make that more likely. That is not good enough. I want them to use their resources wisely, signing guys like Stoll to longterm deals, rather then throwing tons of money at aging players. I was actually OK with the Smyth deal because that was what I thought it was about, using that money to sign guys like Stoll. I got suckered in. Turns out they used that money to sign a guy who is nowhere close to Smyth quality.
I would love for Kevin Lowe to succeed. I want him to succeed. After the Vanek deal thorn in the side commenter mclea stated that he was laughing because he wanted to see me, among others, eat my words about Lowe. I replied that nothing would make me happier then to do that because that would mean that the Oilers have succeeded.
Problem is that with him at the helm I think that their chances of doing just that are not that good. I hope I'm wrong. I want to be wrong because I am a fan of the club although in some minds criticizing any move the club makes means you are less of a fan. This whole idea of My Oilers, Right or Wrong, is just plain foolish and drives me crazy. Equating present management with the club is like equating the government with the countryand saying that because one is critical of the club's direction makes you less of a fan is as blind and stupid as saying that someone who criticizes George Bush and Dick Cheney is less of an American, to use an example from south of the border.
I want the Oilers to win a Stanley Cup. I could care less if the GM is Kevin Lowe, Glen Sather, Craig MacTavish, Andy Grabia or Natalie Portman. Just frigging win it. The last eighteen months make me think that Lowe is not the man for the job. I will gladly eat my words if I am wrong but I think don't think I am.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

I'm Shocked, Shocked To See We have All of These DMen!

Kevin Lowe being unintentionally funny in the Journal:

"What happened was, all of a sudden, we got a lot of defencemen. We traded for Grebeshkov. We signed (Dick) Tarnstrom. We traded for Pitkanen. We signed (Sheldon) Souray. Then, I'm thinking, 'Holy mackerel, we've got a lot of guys here,' " said Lowe.

Holy Mackerel! And Matt Greene is in the top four! Holy Mackerel!

And of course here we see Greene getting beat and about to take a penalty. Very apropos.

Yipes! I so want to say that the Oilers are going to defy all logic and be a playoff team this year but the fact that our man, who struggles against the opposition's garbage, is going to actually be facing guys like Paul Stastny, Brian Rolston, Kristin Huselius and so on, makes me remember ... 2010, 2011, 2012 ... that is when this team will be ready for primetime.

Happy to see the season start though. I think the vets who struggled or who were hurt last season - Horcoff, Moreau, Stoll, Torres, Reasoner - all bounce back, especially Horcoff. I think Penner will score thirty, even if he just stands outside the crease and shovels them in. I think if Hemsky stays healthy that he finally has a big year.

Some of the kids will struggle but I hope that one, maybe two, scores fifteen plus and maybe one scores over fifty points. It will be interesting to see if Gagner can stick and contribute.

I think if there was a true # 1 man that this would be a good D from 2 through 6 - Pitkanen on the first pair, Staios and Tarnstrom on the second, Souray and Gilbert on the third - but bumping everyone up a place is not going to do it.

Tenth place I think.

As for playoff teams I was seven for eight last year in the West. I think we're looking at Detroit, Nashville, Colorado, Minnesota, Vancouver, Calgary, Anaheim and San Jose with Dallas being the only team to really have a shot at cracking that lineup. Note how Dallas and Minnesota are always good solid teams? Nice.

Detroit is my pick to win it all - they were a deflection away from getting past Anaheim last year, imo. San Jose and the Ducks will be right on their heels with Colorado being a team that will also be dangerous. As for a team that may fall to pieces - the Flames. Duhatschek had an interesting take on Phaneuf the other day - he questioned him as being mostly sizzle (big shot, big hits) without the steak and compared him to Derek Morris as a guy who was famous but never really progressed after his first couple of years in the league. If he cannot handle top dog minutes or Aucoin is really done the Flames may be in a little bit of trouble.

Out East Ottawa is the team to beat with the Rangers being a threat if their D is not as thin as it looks. Pittsburgh is a year away and for a darkhorse, how about Les Sabres, if its possible for them to be labelled as such. Last season I was four out of eight in picking playoff teams out East - lets go with Florida (someone has to come out of the Southeast), New Jersey (see Dallas/Minnesota), Philly and the Leafs. If Toskala sucks bag or the Devils go south then look for Atlanta, Tampa or Montreal to get in. I think the East is a lot more fluid - I could see almost anyone but the Isles, Caps or Bruins getting in.

Detroit - Ottawa final with the Wings taking the Cup.

Oh, one last thing. For the second straight season the geniuses who run TPTUUA (the Passion That Unites Us All) traded for a goalie and immediately handed him a longterm deal despite questions about whether he was a bonafide #1. And the coach did not play him in the home opener because it seems he did not want to put any pressure on him? Did I get that right?

Oh, it is to laugh.

Lets go Oilers!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Ready To Go - Moreau named Captain, Smid Sent Out

Ethan Moreau was named captain of the Oilers this morning. He's from the Gator school of captaincy; I think Moreau is a good choice and should inspire the kids on the team. Few work harder then Chopper and few are tougher. I'd love to find a clip of that Gratton fight. If inspiration fails with the youngsters perhaps he will threaten them and make them cry.

In other news it looks like the opening roster has been set. With Roy on the IR, the Oilers decided to go with seven Dmen and Laddy Smid was sent out. Gilbert sticks, as he should have, and how does that Tommy Salo deal look now?

Although a bag of pucks and a sandwich would have been a good return for Salo at that point.

Of course sending Smid out just emphasizes what a complete joke last fall was when they played him with Staios on the second pairing rather then paying a little bit of money for a veteran Dman and letting Laddy get his feet wet on the third pair or playing big minutes in the AHL. The kid is likely going to be a good Dman but the handling of his situation has been a farce since day one.

And to everyone's relief Stortini was sent out as well. I like Stortini who was captain of my hometown junior club but he has already played more games in the NHL then I ever figured he would. And so after all of that it looks like both Pouliot and Jacques stick.

And Thoresen was put on waivers - hopefully he sneaks through. My guess is he comes back up if / when Gagner gets sent down.

So the Oilers have a decided Duck like look to them (circa '05/'06) - two lines to handle tougher minutes, although with what success we will have to see - Horcoff-Penner-Hemsky and Moreau-Reasoner-Brodziak -one to take the soft minutes - Torres-Stoll-Nilsson - and one line of kids to take the butter soft minutes and get some time on special teams.

I'm excited about this team but I'm known to be soft in the head.

Oh well, every year some team surprises. Why the hell not the Oilers?

Will come back down to earth in, um, let's say a week.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Gagner Is In

According to TSN, Gagner has signed an entry level contract with the Oilers and will start the season in the NHL. The article also remarks that he will start the season playing on a line with Cogliano and Pouliot.
Interesting - looks like Pouliot pulled the fat out of the fire just in time.
Penner-Horcoff-Hemsky, Torres-Stoll-Nilsson, Moreau-Reasoner-Brodziak, Gagner-Cogliano-Pouliot
Sanderson will be the extra forward? And if they go with seven D, maybe Stortini or Jacques as well.
I'm thinking Gagner just gets the nine games and goes down. I presume the idea is to use these guys like Getzlaf and Perry were used two years ago - soft soft minutes and as much PP time as possible but I can't see the kid sticking for the full year.
And Throesen likely sent down - too bad - one of my favourites.